History Homeschool Kids

The Real Christopher Columbus

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Ponder Monster will be doing a book series and we are all excited! To get familiar with the process, we have created a free Kindle book (for Kindle Unlimited members or 99 cents for the rest of you). It’s really short, but we learned how to format, places images, and all of that good stuff. On top of that, the story is pretty cool and we hope you learn something about Christopher Columbus.

The Kindle version is here and we’d appreciate your feedback and if you’d like to leave us a great review (wink, wink), that’d be great, too!

For the rest of you, here’s MOST of the story. We can’t republish the whole thing or we’d be in violation of Kindle guidelines, but….we’d hate to leave anyone out!


Here is how most of you know the story of Christopher Columbus:

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Now, almost all of that is true!

He was looking for a shorter route to Asia

He was from Italy and convinced the Spanish royalty to pay for his trip.

He did have three ships: the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria

He did take pineapples, turkey, and “Indians” back to Spain.

There is a big thing that is NOT true, however.

He did NOT discover America. He may have been the first to set foot in the “West Indies” (which we will explain) and perhaps even Central and South America. But North America? Nope. He never even set foot on it!

Are you ready? Here we go!


Christopher Columbus was born in Genoa (Italy) in 1452. The son of a weaver, Columbus wanted a different profession for his life – and he loved the sea. He first went to sea as a teenager and traveled in the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas. He visited Greece, Spain, and Portugal, among other places.

Temple of Concordia - Greece

It was a generally accepted fact that the world was round by this point in history, and Columbus was not the first one to propose sailing west in order to reach Asia. It was a good idea, although he didn’t know about the huge land masses in his way and his math, unfortunately, was way off. Columbus estimated the size of the earth to be about 63% of it’s actual size.  It would be like thinking you were on a big baseball, when you were really on a soccer ball! Big difference.


Columbus was set on mapping his new route. Actually, he was really wanting to gain fame and fortune and was scrambling around trying to find sponsors for a three-ship voyage. He tried Portugal. He tried Genoa. He tried Venice. They all rejected him. He went to Spain. They rejected him, but were interested. They had a war going on, however, and decided to delay his voyage.

King and queen standing

king and queen

Finally, they were ready. Columbus was to receive 10 percent of the riches he found, a title of nobility, and would be made governor of any lands he found. He got his ships – the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria –  ready and headed out in August of 1492.


A few days after this, they set foot on land. They were on the beaches on what we now know as the Bahamas. The natives, which apparently had “discovered” the island before Columbus, were willing to trade with these new, strange men. They traded beads, parrots, spears, and even cotton balls! Columbus and his men were really wanting gold, and these people were wearing small pieces of gold adornments. They were encouraged.

columbus and boat

Moving on from the Bahamas, Columbus and his crew went on to Cuba and Espanola (modern day Haiti and the Dominican Republic). The Santa Maria wrecked on a reef off the shore of Espanola (later called Hispaniola) and the natives helped salvage the wreckage and build a settlement with the remains of the ship. The village was called Villa de la Navidad.


There was enough gold on the island to convince Columbus he had reached the land of Ophir. Ophir is the country Solomon and Jehosophat had sent to for gold and silver. He was in love with the land, the gold, and the people. He said of the Arawak Indians, “They are the best people in the world, and beyond all the mildest.” Espanola became the first European colony in the “West Indies”.


Columbus sailed back to Spain, leaving 39 of his men there to manage the new settlement. He gave glowing reports to the queen and king of Spain and then returned to Espanola. What he found there was shocking. The Villa de la Navidad settlement was destroyed, and all the sailors had been massacred. No one knows what happened there.

Against the wishes of the queen, Columbus authorized the enslavement of the Arawak Indians and forced them to rebuild the settlement and look for gold. This made the Indians very angry and they started to hate Columbus and his men. Conditions were very harsh and the Europeans turned violent when the Indians didn’t produce gold. He put his brothers, Diego and Bartolomeo, in charge of Espanola and sailed further west, continuing to explore the islands.

Columbus sailed back to Spain in 1496, bringing more than 500 slaves with him. In lieu of gold, he hoped the gift of slave labor would satisfy the debt he owed to his investors. About 200 slaves died on the journey.

Sailing back to the Caribbean for the third time in 1498, Columbus actually visited the mainland of South America. He explored part of modern day Venezuela before returning to Espanola. Around this time, the settlers there accused Columbus and his brothers of misleading them concerning the riches to be found on the island. The Indians had started to revolt and things were very violent and harsh.

The population of the Arawaks in 1492 was around 100,000. By 1542, only 200 were left.

Spain sent a Royal Official to arrest Columbus and bring him back to Spain. He was stripped of all his titles and all the riches he discovered during his travels. He was eventually released and convinced the king to send him on one more voyage.


In 1502, Columbus went on his last voyage to the Caribbean. He made it to Panama – almost close enough to see the Pacific Ocean. Half his fleet of ships was lost in an attack by natives, and he returned to Spain. 

He died in 1506, believing that he had found a shorter route to Asia.

While Columbus is commonly credited with discovering America, he did not. The Vikings had sailed to North America in the 11th century. He did not set foot in North America and only briefly visited South America. He did visit modern day Bahamas, Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Jamaica, among other islands and countries.

Perhaps he should be credited for discovering the Caribbean?

And that’s the true story.

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